Our mothers are our first models of God: From their bodies, spring our creation.
Early on, in the womb, we are weaned on their nutrients. When we are born, the maternal instinct ensures our safety. This unconditional bond teaches a child what it means to be cherished, teaches a child about the world around him, about emotional needs, about the essence of love. From these early interactions a child's character is born.
My own mother spread her love equally to her children, taking great care to build and affirm our self-esteem.
At the same time, she never tried to be our best friend; she was our mother, and as such, she provided the discipline and structure that our young minds craved. It was under her kindly lash, that my sense of personal responsibility and assertiveness grew. Most of all, she found great peace by giving up everything to serve her children and to help endow them with an immutable moral foundation. This moral sense was bound up in the concepts of religious striving, hard work and charity. In the simplest sense, mama believed that an absolute moral point of reference was necessary to help us discern between right and wrong. Without this foundation, she thought humans tended merely to live from whim to whim, moving neither toward nor away from anything, finding enjoyment only in moments of fleeting beauty.
These lessons were learned young and so they tended to stick. They formed a foundation that would haul me along into adulthood. In a very tangible way, they set me about becoming the man I am today. Decades later these early lessons remain not just as memory, but also as a lingering joy in my heart and a constant source of rejuvenation.
Even though her children have now grown and spread out to chart the geography of their own existence, mama remains at the family farm, caring for the land.
During a recent trip home to celebrate her 76th birthday, one could observe some hints of mortality.
Common activities like preparing big meals or a morning stroll across the farm were suffused with the menace of old age - a slowing in steps and stiffening in the joints.
Still, mama plowed forward. She maintains a photographic memory, recalling all of the birthdays and special events in her children's lives. She still has the wisdom to read people a mile away. And when it was time for me to leave, she came scurrying out the door, hoisting a platter of food - pies, macaroni and cheese, chicken bog, cabbage and fried chicken wings - baked at dawn that morning for her forever child.
For that moment, at least, the menace of age receded beneath the satisfaction of an adequate life lived.
With such memories fixed in my heart, I fondly recall my mama, Thelma Williams, this Mother's Day and every day of the year.